THE Consumer Crew are here to solve your problems.
Mel Hunter will take on readers’ consumer issues, Jane Hamilton will give you the best advice for buying your dream home, and Judge Rinder will tackle your legal woes.
Jane Hamilton, property expert
How to find a let with a pet
FOR a nation of animal lovers, it can be hard to let with a pet.
Movebubble’s Aidan Rushby says: “Due to perceived downsides like property damage and pests, fewer rental properties accept pets, though pet owners tend to be responsible tenants looking for long-term contracts.”
Below, we outline your rights as a “pet parent” and offer some advice for those hunting a rental.
Know your rights: Legally, landlords can’t include a blanket “no pets” clause in contracts.
But all pets must be pre-approved at the landlord’s discretion.
They should not unreasonably withhold consent, such as for a goldfish.
Assistance dogs are a legal right under the Disability Discrimination Act 2005.
Search smart: Dogs Trust site letswithpets.org.uk lists only pet-friendly properties.
Create a “pet CV” including the animal’s age, sex, breed, behaviour and an image, plus a reference from your previous landlord and your vet.
Include how long the animal spends alone in the day or who cares for it.
Be flexible: Start your search early and be prepared to move fast.
Consider offering a higher deposit to cover any damage your pet causes.
Look for pet-friendly features: Is there a park nearby?
Is it on a quiet road?
Is there a cat-flap?
Add any changes to your tenancy agreement: Your landlord should add a clause to the contract confirming the pet will not affect your rights.
Buy of the week
BURNHAM-ON-SEA in Somerset was one of the first places in the country where a newly reopened pub was forced to shut again due to a punter testing positive for coronavirus.
But if you have to self-isolate, you could do a lot worse than this charming two-bedroom flat on the Esplanade, which offers stunning sea views for £175,000.
Find out more at onthemarket.com/details/8433474.
THE Chancellor’s stamp-duty axe on homes costing less than £500,000 has seen buyer numbers surge this week – in a bid to stop cheeky sellers asking for more cash.
Almost 80 per cent of homes cost less than the half-million threshold.
And in the 30 minutes immediately following Rishi Sunak’s big announcement on Wednesday, traffic on Rightmove soared by 22 per cent.
The site’s Miles Shipside said: “We could now see people rushing to get a price agreed before some sellers put up their prices in the hope people will be able to pay more because of the tax savings.”
Deal of the week
THE trend for bumblebee interiors is creating a real buzz.
This stylish print from Fox & Oak Designs is a bargain on Etsy at £5.39.
SAVE: £5 on similar designs elsewhere
Q) ABOUT three years ago we helped a friend after he was made homeless.
We let him put his belongings in our garage and some of his electrical items in our house.
We now need that space back so in December I texted to ask him if he could move his stuff somewhere else.
I have also emailed several times but have never had a reply.
Can we dispose of his belongings?
A) It would be entirely lawful for you to dispose of your friend’s property.
When you agreed to store your friend’s stuff you became “a bailee”, which required you to take steps to take decent care of his things and to give him a reasonable opportunity to get them back when he asked.
By texting and writing to your friend and making clear that you intend to dispose of his property you have given clear legal notification.
There’s no strict timeframe for the warning but a decent rule of thumb is 14 days.
I would urge you to send a further message (by text, email and letter to his last known address) making clear one last time what you intend to do and giving him two weeks to respond.
Is he fur real?
Q) MY daughters have both worked in a restaurant since November 2017.
When it closed due to lockdown, they were told they were being furloughed.
The owner paid them himself for the first two weeks but they have had no income since.
They keep being told there is a problem with HMRC.
A) I’m concerned about the behaviour of your daughter’s boss.
If they were furloughed (as he claimed), they were entitled to Government money without cost to their boss.
It sounds like he failed to apply to the Government scheme at all.
If so, your daughter’s legal remedy would be against this boss, not the Government.
Your daughters should write to him at once, asking him to confirm that he applied to the Government’s furlough scheme, reminding him of what he promised them.
They need to make clear that he could be legally liable for their pay in the event that he falsely promised your daughters would receive an income during lockdown.
Q) IN January this year my daughter signed a tenancy agreement for a student let for a room in a three-bed house in Leicester to commence in September this year.
Subsequent to signing the agreement she has become ill and is being treated for anxiety and depression.
She has been, and still is, very ill.
Just before Easter she began trying to contact the letting agency to inform them she would not be returning to university in September due to illness.
She has provided medical proof as well as evidence she is deferring her year at university but they have proved difficult to get hold of.
They finally got back to us recently and said she will either have to find another tenant to take over her tenancy, or pay for the room she won’t be using.
She does not have the funds to pay for the rent, as she won’t be receiving a student loan for the next academic year and is not well enough to work.
With the added difficulty of coronavirus we don’t think we will find another tenant.
Do we have any grounds at all to argue?
This extra stress is only making her illness worse.
A) You need to check the tenancy agreement your daughter signed, which may contain a break clause giving her the right to leave her property with limited notice.
Given your daughter gave this landlord a clear indication she wished to break the contract because of her health, she may have an argument that it was up to the landlord to mitigate his loss by finding someone to replace her.
The problem is that most student tenancy agreements favour landlords who are worried they’ll lose rent if a student leaves or quits their course.
You may need to be pushy here and negotiate with the landlord.
Assuming your daughter is legally bound to pay, you might make a small offer.
If the landlord refuses, the university should provide some assistance through its welfare office.
I know this is worrying for your daughter but it’s a solvable problem and one that the law is likely to be sympathetic to.
- Got a question for Judge Rinder? Email [email protected]
Mel Hunter, Reader's champion
A rough ride from Argos
Q) IN April, we ordered an electronic exercise bike from Argos, costing £500. My husband, who’s an engineer, easily assembled the bike but when I went on it there was a burning smell and it stopped working.
We bought the bike to keep fit in lockdown and to stay upbeat during a difficult time.
We contacted Argos immediately but were told it could not collect the bike or provide us with a new one until after lockdown. Argos refused us a refund.
It said we could pay for a new bike but, again, it could not collect the original one.
We couldn’t afford to buy another bike. It was extremely upsetting to be shown zero sympathy for our situation.
Allison Kelly, Petre, Rhondda Cynon Taff
A) Under normal circumstances, you would have been entitled to a refund or replacement straight away. Of course, these were not normal times.
Nevertheless, I felt Argos could and should have done more here, rather than simply asking you to stump up another £500, with no idea if or when you would get your money back.
Waiting until the stores reopened – which they did a couple of weeks after you contacted me – wasn’t an option, as you were shielding. I gave Argos full details of your situation and it did eventually sort things out, albeit too late to help you through the worst of lockdown.
A spokesperson told me: “We have apologised to Allison for her experience. We are providing a full refund and arranging collection of the bike. We have also sent a gesture of goodwill and hope she will shop with us again soon.”
No explanation was offered about what exactly had gone wrong here and why you experienced the problems you did.
Q) I BOUGHT a laptop from Currys PC World in November.
In December it failed and I got a replacement.
This then broke and it went in for repair in March.
A few days later, it went wrong yet again and was returned to be fixed. Then lockdown came.
Weeks later, there’s still no sign of the laptop and I have not heard anything from Currys, despite calling.
John Cutler, Brierley Hill, West Mids
A) Your letter arrived a couple of months ago, at the peak of lockdown.
Having no computer gave you a huge headache at such a difficult time.
Currys PC World looked into it for me and agreed to refund you, saying the laptop had been lost.
But money can’t fix this problem, as the computer was packed with thousands of irreplaceable photos.
I urged Currys to keep looking and am pleased to say that it reappeared in your local store on the day shops were allowed to reopen.
You were delighted and Currys gave you £75 for the inconvenience, which you will pass on to charity.
I’ve urged you to back up everything in case the device gets another fault.
If that happens, you should make sure Currys gives you a no-quibbles replacement.
- Do you have a consumer issue? Email [email protected]
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